ontario gyms opening

Toronto gym staging mass outdoor workouts to protest Ontario closures

At face value, it seems a bit strange for Ontario's government to shut down fitness clubs in the name of public health while allowing businesses that sell alcohol, junk food and tobacco to remain open.

Regular exercise is indisputably good for human bodies, linked to the prevention of all kinds of diseases and health conditions, as well as improved mood, sleep, energy, lifespan and overall wellbeing.

The fact that gyms can't open, or even host outdoor fitness classes, seems ludicrous to many, and athletes (or fitness advocates) are organizing to get that message heard in the form of peaceful workout protests.

Exercise itself isn't banned under current province-wide shutdown rules or stay-at-home orders — in fact, we're encouraged to stay active inside or outdoors on our own — but gyms and similar businesses that assist people in achieving their fitness goals have now been fully closed in Toronto for more than six months.

Even outdoor fitness classes, which were briefly allowed in late March after grey zone rules were modified, but before the entire province was plunged into shutdown mode, are now illegal thanks to tightened gathering limits.

Long story short, gym owners and patrons are getting fed up with getting the runaround.

Some, like Mississauga's HUF gym, are straight up defying the rules and opening their doors at great legal and financial risk. Others are getting creative within the province's rules to speak out against them.

Toronto's United Boxing Club falls into the latter category.

"OUTDOOR SPORT & FITNESS IS ESSENTIAL!" wrote the gym in an Instagram post last week promoting one of its new outdoor "peaceful protest workouts."

"We demand that the provincial government recognize sports and fitness businesses as essential during the COVID-19 Lockdown," it continues.
"While businesses selling alcohol, cannabis, tobacco and junk food to Ontarians have been deemed essential, residents of the province have not been allowed to seek professional support when it comes to fitness and exercises, which have been proven to bolster mental health."

The group has to date organized large outdoor workouts in Christie Pits Park, Canoe Landing Park, the south lawn of Queen's Park and, most recently, outside Toronto City Hall, in Nathan Phillips Square.

Videos show dozens of incredibly fit-looking people doing HIIT-style workouts outdoors, peacefully and exuberantly while spaced six feet apart.

Health and safety protocols listed for the events include mandatory social distancing, mask use until the workouts begin, no loitering or group gatherings and no attendance with symptoms of COVID-19.

They're not anti-lockdowners, and they're not opening up indoor fitness spaces in defiance of the government. Their only goal with the workouts, says owner Geordan Thomas, is to "get our voices heard about the current regulations, and how we feel that fitness and gyms are part of the solution, more so than part of the problem."

Even when gyms were open for indoor access this summer, strict capacity limits and safety protocols were in place.

Many operators have spoken out to say that they felt confident their clients could work out safely despite the threat of COVID-19 and, for the most part, they were right: The vast majority of virus spread has in fact been linked to essential workplaces (hence persistent calls for paid sick leave policies.)

United Boxing Club's next peaceful protest workout takes place Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Yonge-Dundas Square. All are welcome, so long as they are respectful of the rules (and not intimidated by all of the seriously ripped participants around them.)

Lead photo by

Geordan Thomas

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